Oh, and after you’re done reading be sure to hop over to Sadie Dear’s blog and read more of her lovely words. I especially love this post about homebirths and this one sharing her blogging advice.
I am so thrilled that Gretchen has asked me to come over and share my birth story with her friends today! It’s very important for women to talk about their birth stories. By sharing our stories with one another, we take some of the mystery out of the childbearing process. It’s not likely that birth will ever be not mysterious, but I believe that a lot of women lose the joy of the childbearing year to the fear of the unknown. On the night after my Buckaroo was born, I wrote his birth story so that I could make sure all the details were there. I knew that they may soon be lost in the haze of new motherhood: after all, I had a very difficult time remembering details from my wedding to Aspie Boy (that’s my affectionate nickname for the handsome bearded giant that is my husband) very soon after it was over. Things like that come and go in a snap, and it’s easy to forget how to remember. The original version of our birth story is so long that it’s easy to get bogged down. Again, I wanted to capture every single detail. Without further “ado”… how about the story?
On the morning of February 9, 2010: I woke early in the morning, as Aspie Boy was preparing to go to work. We ate breakfast together and talked about the day. I had plans to go to a meetup for other women in the local natural birth community. It may be hard for some to believe that I planned a natural birth. The more I learned about birth as I prepared to meet my little boy, the more convinced I became that an unmedicated, low-intervention birth would be the safest and best option for both of us. I even chose a doctor at a hospital in another county who was known to be low-intervention and very mother friendly. He is a rock star among those of us that would prefer to have a midwife (but do not because of the lack of licensing options for midwives in the state of Alabama). Aspie Boy left for work, and I sat on my birth ball to watch the morning news. Suddenly, I felt a pop, and I immediately felt like I had to go to the bathroom! I hurriedly finished my breakfast and headed for the toilet. I didn’t realize yet that I was having contractions. After about twenty minutes of being unable to poop despite the cramping, it occurred to me that my discomfort might be labor.
I called Aspie Boy to tell him I thought he might need to come home and I headed for the shower. I recalled that taking a shower is a great way to discern if contractions are leading to active labor, or are only “pre-labor” (what some others erroneously call false labor). After five minutes in the shower, I was finally convinced I was going to have my baby that very day. I stumbled out of the shower, laid a towel on the floor, and fell to hands-and-knees position. The contractions were coming fast and hard. I timed them: four minutes apart. Another call to Aspie Boy: “Get home. NOW.” I went back to the bathroom to sit on the toilet. Shortly after, I began to push involuntarily. I had only been in active labor for about forty minutes. I called 911. Why did I call 911? I often wish that I had not. At the time, I was terrified (despite all my months of preparation, I never intended to labor alone!). I thought there was no way we’d make it to the hospital, so maybe having a medic there would be the safest thing. Aspie Boy arrived shortly before the medics. He let them in, and they paraded right into my birth space and began making demands. “Let’s go.” “Can’t we just stay here?” I pleaded. “Are you crazy, lady? You’re having a baby!” I acquiesced, though reluctantly. They wheeled me out of my home while the neighbors looked on and my dog panicked and barked furiously. They strapped my legs down. I kicked the straps off. They tried to hook me up to IV fluids, despite the fact I plainly said I did not want or need them, and Aspie Boy (defiantly, from the front seat where he was riding) repeatedly declared that his wife did not want them and she was very well read on the matter and actually had it written in her birth plan, “heplock only, no IV fluids, water and light food by mouth during labor”. Neither of the medics had ever heard of a birth plan, but they insisted that they must follow procedure: no matter what. My veins, however, would not cooperate. They were never successful in running an IV drip, and neither were the nurses in the L&D unit, for that matter. The ambulance driver would not take me to my chosen doctor: …too far away, he said. Choose another place, he said. So I did. A nurse checked my cervix on admission: ten centimeters. Well, no crap, I thought. I’d been pushing for a while already: before calling 911, during the ride to the hospital, and on the gurney: over the crosswalk and up the elevator. Progress, however, was stalled. My baby was posterior and I had been placed on my back for the transition to the hospital. He was wedged on my pubic bone.
I pushed for three more hours after arriving at this unfamiliar L&D. The nurses were incredible. They rolled me from side to side, and at one point tried to get me upright (but the pain from that position was positively excruciating, and I asked to lay back down). I only wish someone had suggested that I get on hands-and-knees again, as that would surely have helped him turn and come over the pubic bone sooner. I was in a haze: it seemed like a dream. I prayed. I imagined Christ on the cross, and thought, “Surely, He suffered much more than I am now so that I can have life… I can do this for my little one!” I pushed. I cried. Aspie Boy was an incredible cheerleader, and made sure to keep a water bottle to my lips and encouraging words from his. At some point, my mother arrived. She held my hand and stroked my face. Someone suggested that I push “up, toward the light”. That did it! Buckaroo came over the pubic bone and began making progress. “I can see his hair!” Aspie Boy exclaimed. “What color is it?” “Red!” I knew it! I thought. Suddenly, a nurse was on the phone with the doctor on call. It was show time! Within what seemed like seconds, an unfamiliar woman in dark blue scrubs (and a lanyard sporting team colors that I do not like around her neck… those are things that a laboring woman in Alabama, the football capitol of the U.S., will notice!) walked in and pulled a stool up to the delivery table. I saw her reach for something. Then I saw Aspie Boy move forward. “What are you doing?” He turned into Papa Bear with the quickness. “I have to cut an episiotomy,” the obstetrician announced. “No!” I shouted. “I prefer to tear naturally!” I exclaimed. “No!” My mother gasped. “Why?!” My husband interjected. “My wife has specifically written in her birth plan that she does not want an episiotomy.” “This is clearly a very large baby,” the doctor announced, “and, if I do not do it, he may be brain damaged or be born dead.” There was an exchange, and the doctor threatened to call security to have Aspie Boy ejected from the room. I thought in that moment, Whatever. Just get it over with so that I can hold my baby.
The next contraction came on, and Buckaroo’s head popped out. Another moment, and his body arrived. Buckaroo was 20 1/2 inches long and seven pounds: four ounces. I tore a little bit, and had two stitches to repair the wound: but I am nearly positive that would not have happened if my care provider had supported my perineum.
It was several hours before I got to hold my little one. He was kept on a warmer for a while because his body temperature was not regulating well, though it has been shown that kangaroo care is a superior alternative to the machines of the modern-day L&D ward. My sister took the picture you see above this paragraph with her iPhone so that I could see his face. I’ll be honest and say that we had difficulty establishing breastfeeding in the first weeks. I am sure that is attributed to negligence and ignorance on the part of the hospital staff. It is unfortunate how the U.S. maternity care system often undermines women with the best intentions by questioning our innate wisdom. I am heartened, however, to see sizable shifts in perception and practice on the part of maternal care providers in this area over the last few years.
I still hope my next baby can be born at home. We are not making plans for another child yet, but I look forward to another opportunity to share my womb with a little one and to test my body’s ability to give birth the way God intended. It may not be the ideal choice for every woman, but I am glad in so many ways that I did educate myself on the nature of birth before Buckaroo came, and that I did choose an unmedicated birth. It was the most challenging experience of my life, but I have absolute certainty that it really was the best thing I could have done.
Oh, yeah… one more thing. Buckaroo’s hair only stayed red for the first year of his life. He now (at two-and-almost-half years old) has the blondest and curliest hair I have ever seen. I’d love for you to come over to our place and get to know him better! When I was pregnant, people were often shocked to learn we were planning a natural birth. I always said, “I am more scared of being a Mommy than I am giving birth to this baby.” I couldn’t know at the time how appropriate the sentiment really was… because my boy is as much wild as he is loveable, and he’s definitely giving me some hard lessons in the school of parenting. I wouldn’t change anything about it for the world!
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